CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - The Christchurch-based Crusaders beat Argentina’s Jaguares 19-3 in the Super Rugby final Saturday to win the Southern Hemisphere tournament for the third year in a row and the 10th time overall.
Scott Robertson, who won three titles with the Crusaders as a player, has now won the championship in each of his three years as head coach. He celebrated in now traditional fashion by break dancing on the field at Christchurch Stadium as his players stood around decked with winners’ medals.
The 18,000-seat stadium, a “temporary” facility developed in the aftermath of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, was filled to capacity on a bitterly cold evening, including by many exuberant fans of the Jaguares whose coach Gonzalo Quesada guided them to their first final in his first year in charge.
Those fans saw Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mo’unga punctuate the game with four penalties and the conversion of the only try, scored by hooker Codie Taylor.
“Defense won it again for us,” Robertson said. “It feels like the last three weeks have been finals.
“We had to get back to basics, we had to get old school and just plug it into the corners. (Flanker) Matt Todd made 100 tackles and we just found a way.”
The Crusaders had 12 All Blacks in their starting 15 and the Jaguares are almost all members of the Argentina national team, bringing a test-match intensity to the final. For the first 10 minutes, the Crusaders camped in Jaguares territory but couldn’t break a willing defense.
For the next five minutes the Jaguares attacked and the first points of the game came in the 15th minute when Joacquin Diaz Bonilla goaled from a scrum penalty. By halftime it was the Crusaders who had to make almost twice as many tackles as their opponents.
The Jaguares rushed up in defense and tackled around the legs, putting players on the ground and allowing them to quickly contest at the breakdown. That forced the Crusaders to try and pass out of contact and in frosty conditions they made handling errors, 6-1 in the first quarter.
The first try of the match, in the 25th minute, came from a chance turnover and superb work from the Crusaders tight forwards. Flanker Matt Todd forced a turnover after a high kick. The ball moved quickly to lock Sam Whitelock, who dashed down the left touchline, passing inside to Taylor.
Jaguares winger Matias Moroni missed a scoring chance near the end of the first half, losing the ball in two tackles near the goal line. The Crusaders broke out late, won a penalty and went into halftime leading 10-3.
Moroni had a chance again at the start of the second half when he reclaimed his own kick on the right flank but his pass to Matias Orlando was lost. The Crusaders were forced again to make many tackles and their defense proved equal to the task.
Todd was held up over the line in the 51st minute and, when the Crusaders bulldozed the ensuing scrum, Mo’unga kicked a penalty for a 13-3 lead. As the scales tipped a little in the Crusaders’ favor Mo’unga goaled for a 16-3 lead after 59 minutes.
Moroni, again, had a chance from a cross kick in the 68th minute but the bounce beat him across the dead ball line.
That was the last gasp from the Jaguares, who played superbly in their first final. Mo’unga landed a long-range penalty in the 75th minute to put the result beyond doubt.
The Jaguares still rose to the occasion, despite the disadvantages of long-distance travel and the necessity of facing team on a 30-game winning streak at home.
They shook but couldn’t break the composure of the Crusaders, who were playing in their 14th final.
1996 — Auckland Blues
1997 — Auckland Blues
1998 — Canterbury Crusaders
1999 — Canterbury Crusaders
2000 — Canterbury Crusaders
2001 — ACT Brumbies
2002 — Canterbury Crusaders
2003 — Auckland Blues
2004 — ACT Brumbies
2005 — Canterbury Crusaders
2006 — Canterbury Crusaders
2007 — Bulls
2008 — Crusaders
2009 — Bulls
2010 — Bulls
2011 — Queensland Reds
2012 — Chiefs
2013 — Chiefs
2014 — New South Wales Waratahs
2015 — Highlanders
2016 — Hurricanes
2017 — Crusaders
2018 — Crusaders
2019 — Crusaders
Note: Super 12 from 1996-2005, Super 14 from 2006-10, Super 15 from 2011-13.